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For over 20 years, Sony’s PlayStation consoles have arguably been the dominant force in gaming. The PlayStation 2 is still the highest-selling system of all time, while PlayStation 4 commands the current generation. Even the PS3 with its troubled launch eventually became a success. All of this started back in 1994 with the original PlayStation. Considering its importance, it’s not surprising Sony released a miniature version of the system: the PlayStation Classic. Unfortunately, what should have been a great answer to Nintendo’s own mini retro consoles fails to capture the magic of the original PlayStation.

The PlayStation Classic comes pre-installed with 20 titles. This includes hit games like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, R4 Ridge Racer Type 4, Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, Tekken 3, and Twisted Metal. Some smaller games like Mr. Driller, Rayman, and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo also make an appearance. Though there are some notable PlayStation titles not included on this system, the selection of games covers a wide range of genres.

As you’d expect, the PlayStation Classic is a shrunken down version of the original PlayStation. The front of the unit has USB ports for the two included wired controllers, while the top has three buttons: Power, Reset, and Open. The Open button doesn’t actually open the disk tray. It only exists for titles like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII, which originally required users to change disks. The back of the system has an HDMI port and a USB-3 port. The latter supplies power to the system. However, you’ll need to use your own USB AC adaptor since the system doesn’t come with one.

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Playing games with an original PlayStation controller is an interesting experience if you’re used to the modern DualShock design. There are no analog sticks and no rumble feature. While most games feel fine with a d-pad, titles with characters moving in a 3D environment control awkwardly. The lack of rumble makes the Psycho Mantis encounter from Metal Gear Solid feel less impactful since he can’t make your controller vibrate. With all that said, the controllers work perfectly fine and feel surprisingly good to play with even after all these years.

After pressing the Power button, you’ll hear the classic PlayStation boot up jingle. You’ll also see the old Sony Computer Entertainment logo, which now says Sony Interactive Entertainment. The main menu features a wheel of games you can scroll through. Visually, the menu is reminiscent of the classic PlayStation memory card and CD player menus. This simplistic interface is a nice nod to the old-school.

There isn’t a whole lot to tinker with in settings. You can set the language, enable a screensaver, or set the console to turn off after 60 minutes of inactivity. You can return to the main menu mid-game by pressing the Reset button. Doing this also creates a save file which you can use to return to the point where you left off. You can also create in-game saves for each title, with up to 15 total saves per game.

If you want to add scanlines or smooth out the graphics, you’re out of luck. There are absolutely no filter options of any kind. The lack of scanlines is something I personally have a problem with. I feel older games made for CRT TVs look best with scanlines. On the flipside, those who wish to make the graphics crisper and smoother won’t be happy either. Retro consoles should come with basic filter options, and PlayStation Classic drops the ball hard in this department.

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All games on PlayStation Classic run at 720p resolution. This isn’t bad in and of itself. After all, the original titles ran at a lower resolution. 720p at least technically brings them up to HD standards. It’s also important to note the Nintendo classic systems also featured 720p resolution. Unfortunately, the PlayStation Classic titles do not look as good as those of the Nintendo minis, and it’s not entirely because of the resolution.

Instead of using their own proprietary software, Sony is using open-source software to run the PlayStation Classic. Specifically, PCSX ReARMed. The problems inherent with this emulator are very much present here. Every game has muddy looking graphics with inconsistent frame rates. Audio can sometimes run slower than it is supposed to. The original PlayStation is graphically inferior by today’s standards, but its games looked far better than they do on PlayStation Classic. This is important to remember since some may think the titles actually looked this way back in the day. They most certainly did not.

What makes the poor emulation of PlayStation Classic worse is that we’ve already had fantastic emulation from Sony before. The PS2, PS3, PSP, and Vita can all run classic PlayStation games wonderfully. This is because these systems either have original PlayStation hardware or software. Since that’s the case, it’s baffling Sony would use an open-source software solution instead of deploying its own technology to power the system. This should have been an easy win.

While the PlayStation Classic doesn’t present games in the best light, they wouldn’t have exactly looked phenomenal running on better software. Fifth generation 3D titles from the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 just haven’t aged well. They looked great in the 90’s, but now, the graphics are decidedly rough looking. They do not stand the test of time the way games from the 16-bit era have. 32-bit 2D sprite-based titles have held up well, but the 3D games are another story entirely. You’ll want to wear thick nostalgia goggles when playing these old games. The bad emulation of the PlayStation Classic just exacerbates the problem.

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Aged graphics aside, the original PlayStation is one of the most influential and important gaming consoles of all time. Gaming would not be where it is today if not for Sony’s first system. It’s a shame the PlayStation Classic does such a poor job of showcasing the iconic console. Though the game selection is missing a large number of notable titles, the lackluster emulation ultimately kills this product. It’s just not worth the $99.99 asking price. If you want to try out classic PlayStation titles, you’re better off playing them on older Sony systems. Even as a die-hard PlayStation fan, I cannot in good conscious recommend this product to anyone.

PlayStation Classic is available on Amazon for $99.99

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